“Abu Ghraib: Atrocity, Accountability, and Scapegoating”

By Jeffrey Albertson/May 6, 2019

**Please be cautioned that this post contains graphic content that may be unsuitable for some readers. Reader discretion is advised.
In 2010, I was a graduate student at the University of West Georgia in the Public Administration program. I wrote this analysis, titled “Abu Ghraib: Atrocity, Accountability, and Scapegoating,” of the torture at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq in December 2010.

This entry is filed under #BrieflyStated, although this topic is far from brief and should be not lightly considered. Here are some excerpts:







The atrocities at Abu Ghraib prison came to national attention following the publication of Seymour M. Hersh’s Torture at Abu Ghraib in the New Yorker magazine and the airing of a CBS 60 Minutes II episode. What followed this revelation was tantamount to outage, but also questions about how conditions in Iraq had become so dire that soldiers were abusing and torturing detainees.

The image that would be forever burned into the memories of the world is that of one detainee standing on a box, draped in a black hooded garment with electrodes attached to this fingers. There are more: a dead Iraqi sandwiched between two gurneys, Lynndie England holding a leash to a prisoner on a concrete floor, and Charles Graner posing over a dead body with a thumbs up.

Eleven U.S. soldiers were convicted in military trials of crimes related to the humiliation and abuse of prisoners. The torture victims also reported being subjected to electric shocks, deprivation of food, water, and oxygen, sexual abuse, threats from dogs, beatings, sensory deprivation, and rape.

Abu Ghraib prison was closed in April 2014 by the Iraqi Government, who cited security concerns following a massive breakout the previous year.

In December 2014, the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence released a 500 page executive summary on the CIA’s torture tactics, the product of nearly six-year inquiry by committee Democrats. The release concluded that the CIA routinely provided “extensive inaccurate information” to Congress and the White House about its coercive interrogations, that CIA management of the program was “inadequate and deeply flawed” and that the methods were “far more brutal” than the CIA acknowledged. Nonetheless, the release renewed the on-going debated in the use of torture in American foreign policy.

According to the LA Times, some of the report’s more horrifying details are reminiscent of the Abu Ghraib prison scandal in Iraq:

One detainee in CIA custody was “chained to a wall in the standing position for 17 days” and another looked like “a dog who had been kenneled,” according to a CIA description cited in the report.

Some detainees were forced to stay awake for a week, “usually standing or in stress positions, at times with their hands shackled above their heads.” Some were doused with ice water, or stripped naked and chained for days in unheated, unlighted cells.

At least five captives were subjected to painful rectal rehydration or rectal feeding, without documented medical necessity. In one case, the CIA put a captive’s lunch — hummus, raisins, pasta and nuts — into a blender and inserted the food into his colon through a tube.

The CIA applied its methods “in near nonstop fashion for days or weeks at a time,” the document states.

The most gruesome conditions occurred at a former brick factory north of Kabul, Afghanistan, that the CIA took over in the fall of 2002.

Nonetheless, the debate on the use of torture is still on-going, while the affected individual still grapple with what happened.

Additional Resources—

Dr. Tracy Lightcap’s books: The Politics of Torture (2011), Examining Torture (2014).

Former interrogator Eric Fair’s op-ed in the New York Times, titled I Can’t Be Forgiven for Abu Ghraib.

General Antonio Taguba’s AR 15-6 Investigation of the 800th Military Police Brigade.

ACLU’s Torture Database.

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